Annual report and accounts

Most government organisations’ annual reports and accounts are published as House of Commons (HC) or unnumbered Act Papers. The Journal Office sets the requirements for these parliamentary papers. Contact the office at journaloffice@parliament.uk or call 020 7219 3361/3252.

Annual reports and accounts are usually laid and published in June and July. During these months as many as 250 reports may be produced, which means that the supplier, Journal Office, HM Treasury and National Audit Office are all extremely busy.

Most of the production and publishing information provided applies equally to annual reports and accounts. However, these papers have additional clearance procedures, and organisations may need to check with their parent department or, if a central government department, with HM Treasury to ensure that the correct processes are followed.

You must factor in these additional clearance procedures when planning your annual reports and accounts. The figure below gives an overview of the key areas that organisations need to consider in preparation for laying and publishing their report.

An image showing the stages that departments should consider when producing their annual reports and accounts

Checklist

Government organisations have their own detailed project plans to produce the report and accounts – this summary highlights some of the steps involved. You may need to consider these:

  • Book in your annual report and accounts with the central supplier, more information about the supplier can be found here
  • Central departments should follow guidance from HM Treasury
  • Ensure any standing templates are updated to reflect current guidance. Do not assume that previous years’ templates are correct
  • Identify and plan the National Audit Office input* (see below)
  • Executive agencies and other arms-length bodies should prepare annual reports and accounts in accordance with their governing documents, relevant legislation and directions given by parent departments
  • Executive agencies and other arms-length bodies should confirm with their parent department the timelines for approval by the permanent secretary and relevant minsters
  • Obtain the necessary spending controls exemption to produce the report and accounts
  • Departments must obtain and include an HC number from HM Treasury. In some cases parent departments can obtain HC numbers for other organisations. Otherwise obtain numbers directly from the Journal Office. A very few annual reports and accounts are Command Papers, obtain Command Paper numbers from The National Archives at official.publishing@nationalarchives.gov.uk
  • Check that the presentation line in the document is correct. If the report and accounts is an HC or Act Paper ensure that it is laid under the correct piece of legislation, consult with legal advisors if there is any doubt. You must ensure that the laying authority is correct
  • Obtain the necessary publication furniture from the supplier and submit the completed cover, title page and title verso to the Journal Office for approval
  • Liaise with external auditors to audit accounts. Bear in mind that more than one audit may take place
  • Proofread for typographical errors and to ensure that the publication furniture has been included before sending the document to the printers or creating a print-ready PDF
  • Obtain final approval from relevant organisations (such as external auditors and parent department) to publish
  • Confirm how many print copies are required and where they are to be delivered
  • Send the final print file to the central supplier, if print copies are required
  • If the central supplier is not being used to supply print copies and print copies are required, agree a print copy delivery date with the supplier and obtain the supplier’s packing and labelling instructions
  • HM Treasury lays central departments’ annual reports and accounts. Departments should liaise with HM Treasury to ensure that copies of the report and accounts have reached the Treasury in time to meet the planned laying date
  • Executive agencies and other arms-length bodies should liaise with HM Treasury, or their parliamentary unit or that of their parent department, to ensure the report is laid in Parliament
  • Once laying is confirmed and if an organisation is listed on GOV.UK, its annual report and accounts must appear here. There should not be a long delay between laying and publication, otherwise complaints may result
  • Organisations without GOV.UK publishing rights should organise GOV.UK publication through their parent department’s digital team
  • Publish the report’s accessible web and print-ready PDFs on GOV.UK here: www.gov.uk/official-documents. The report can also be published in html following this guidance. Further requirements and information on publishing can be found here
  • The version published online must be exactly the same as the version provided to Parliament. Versions published in html should retain provenance details from the report’s title and copyright pages

*The NAO has several information sources:

  • Checklists which document all of the matters that should be addressed, where appropriate, in a set of annual reports and accounts. You or your colleagues should look at these checklists in advance to ensure that the timetables for laying accounts are not delayed because of omissions in the accounts
  • Two-page guide on governance statements. This guide has been prepared by reviewing a number of departments and arm’s length bodies across government and drawing out some of the key messages arising from the first year implementing the governance statements. You should engage with governance colleagues to ensure that the governance statements in their annual reports and accounts adhere to best practice
  • Building Public Trust Awards good practice guidance. The awards recognise outstanding corporate reporting that builds trust and transparency. An interactive PDF illustrates a range of good practice examples across annual reports in both the public and private sector

HM Treasury has also provided slides on producing annual reports and accounts, and its role in the process: HM Treasury annual report and accounts guidance (PDF, 0.84 MB).